Fèis Ìle, the annual festival of malt and music on the isle of Islay, where each of the distilleries have one day of festivities surrounded by arts and crafts workshops, whisky tastings, local (sea)food vendors and pop-up restaurants, community driven ceilidhs and performances from a variety of artists. Most, if not all distilleries also release a festival bottling, resulting in island long queues and same-day high prices on several whisky auction websites.
The last Saturday of the festival is traditionally covered by the Ardbeg distillery, always one of the distilleries doing a different, out of the box and heavily branded event, good for a proper party, dressed in silly games and activities, showcasing their latest limited release and the distillery. This year, the Kelpie was chosen as a theme.
As far as we know, Ardbeg and their marketing machines are the only ones spreading their festival day around the world through their Ardbeg embassies, putting up a faux Islay show we have come to experience in previous editions on the island. Unable to attend the festivities on our beloved Islay this year, we were lucky enough to receive an invitation through the mail to appear at one of these local events at the Westergasterras in Amsterdam.
Welcomed by a human sized lobster and a selection of interesting and dangerously drinkable Ardbeg cocktails, WhiskySpeller and about one hundred influencers, bloggers, vloggers, traditional press(ers), retailers and a handful committee members witnessed the arrival of a Kelpie coming from the smoke-covered waters of the Strait of Corryvreckan local pond, camouflaged in weed (not the kind Amsterdam is known for) releasing some of its siblings and namesake whisky to the crowd.
Ardbeg’s 2017 limited release(‘s backstory) is based on the Shapeshifting myths of the Gaelic Kelpie and not – contrary to what we believed earlier, a half year old ‘legend’ born behind a desk. Sure, the theme is once again filled with a lot of marketing and the stories are undoubtedly tweaked in the places they needed thickening or skimming, but the entertainment value was at a high level, as expected.
Oh, and the whisky itself? It is a good dram – no surprises. Matured in virgin wood, giving extra spice and chocolate notes to the smoky foundation we know so well, morphing into different spicy notes over time, thus giving a nod to the myths and legends, and is doing exceptionally well with the presented oysters as well as the slivers of salmon and seaweed.
With any luck, a (sample of a) Kelpie will reveal its weed-covered head at the WhiskySpeller HQ one of these days, so we will be able to make a proper note on our WhiskyWorship and LovingWhisky tasting note blogs. Until then, the ambiance at the party and short VR-trip made us feel like we were on Islay for a little while, making us want to go back again. Many thanks to Ardbeg and Typhoon Hospitality for the invite.
Thomas & Ansgar
Make sure to check our photo album on Facebook for more pictures of the event.